S I I A S @ C S I Study Collection for Ancient and Medieval Civilizations
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NEAR EASTERN CIVILIZATIONS

Mesopotamia: First States and Writing

The earliest urban civilizations emerged in southern Mesopotamia (now Iraq) around 3200 BCE. The region of Sumer was formed of city-states ruled by kings, the greatest of which were the cities of Ur and Uruk. The formation of the first states also saw the invention of the first writing systems to keep administrative and other records. In Mesopotamia this writing is called cuneiform (wedge-shaped script). A sharp stylus was impressed into a clay tablet to form pictograms, which over time evolved into letters. This writing system was later used to write literature such as the Epic of Gilgamesh, as well as the first legal codes, such as that of King Hammurabi of Babylon (stele in the Louvre shown here at right).

Cuneiform Tablet (fragment)

SIIAS Inv. 86
Terracotta, Assyrian?
The small fragment is inscribed on both sides
and preserves five-six lines of cuneiform script.


 


The Levant: Between Egypt and Mesopotamia

The most important ancient cultures of modern Syria, Lebanon and Israel were those of the Phoenicians, the Canaanites, and the Israelites, known to us from Old Testament accounts in the Bible. These civilizations were deeply influenced by the nearby cultures of Egypt to the south and Mesopotamia to the east. This cross-culturalism is reflected in objects from the SIIAS@CSI Archaeology Collection. These include a few fragments of ivory furniture attachments, like those from Assyria, and small-scale sculptures that show Pharaonic influence.

Revetment Plaque

SIIAS A 1968
Ivory, 7th-6th century BCE?
This plaque is in the form of a straight lion's leg with paw. The leg is carved in relief on one side only, and the reverse is flat for attachment. An ivory or bone pin is inserted at the foot of the leg. The plaque is charred, showing thit it has been burned. The fragment may have adorned a small piece of furniture.

Revetment Plaque

SIIAS A 1968
Ivory, 7th-6th century BCE?
This plaque takes the form of a bent limb, either human or animal. The leg is carved in relief on one side only, and the reverse is flat for attachment. Like the plaque noted above, this too is charred.

Rhyton fragment

SIIAS A
Ivory, 7th-6th century BCE?
This fragment comes from the rim of a drinking horn or rhyton. A rhyton may take the form of a curved horn supported by an animal head or protome. The fragment is decorated with a palmette-leaf frieze.

Small Statuette of Striding Man

SIIAS Inv. 82
Iron. Syria-Palestine? 7th-6th century BCE?

Small Statuette of Striding King?

SIIAS C 89.89
Bronze, gilding on kilt, beard, crown.
Syria-Palestine? 7th-6th century BCE?



Image sources. Map: http://ragz-international.com/sumer.htm
Hammurabi: http://www.louvre.fr/anglais/collec/ao/sb0008/ao_f.htm


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